Dial-1-800 Sweet Tooth

I photographed this group of young Amish girls and guys at the mud sale last week, and they were quite interested in this cell phone candy holder that was being sold at the sale food stands. It was a plastic case that resembled a cell phone ,but only held candy inside. I saw several groups of Amish kids acting like they were making calls throughout the day, and the item was a big hit with them. These girls wearing their colorful bonnets were immersed in looking at this interesting item. I added the boy using his candy filled cell phone at the last-minute so viewers can see it better.

The Prince and The Pauper

As spring advances and trees and grass begin to green up, I start thinking about shooting infrared images.The green foliage turns white in infrared, creating a very unique look. I have found that some of the Victorian era cemeteries can look quite stunning when shot in infrared, and todays post is one such example. This is Calvary cemetery outside New York City, and features very impressive statuary, monuments and carved stones. I have a black backpack and often set it down while I am shooting, and more than once I have gone into panic mode as I wander a bit and realize I forgot where I set my bag. Try finding a bag amongst thousands of dark stones and you quickly remember to wear your bag when you move around. I always go with a friend, and we usually shoot different subjects, so at least once a trip I wait till he is in deep concentration looking through the camera, and I sneak up and suddenly grab his arm or talk in his ear, and of course he returns the favor. This particular cemetery goes on for acres and includes 3 million burials.The large mausoleum on the left is that of the Johnston family. the following is from the internet about this family and where my title came from.

John Johnston died May 17, 1887, seven years after brother Charles and seventeen years before his other brother Robert A. Johnston.

John Johnston led the J. & C. Johnston company, and the J. & C. Johnston department store at Broadway and Twenty-Second Street was a popular source for dress silks and other fabrics. The store was among the most successful of its time, prospering during an era when similar companies frequently went bankrupt.The fortunes of J. & C. Johnston took a drastic turn for the worse after John Johnston’s passing. Responsibility for the company passed to Robert A. Johnston, at whose helm the business failed.

Mr. Johnston possessed millions when the business came to him through the death of his brothers, but he lost all in a few years, and in 1888 the house went out of existence. He retired to his palatial home at Mount St. Vincent, on the Hudson. Later the place was sold at foreclosure and the house burned, the owner having a narrow escape. Since then he had lived alone in a barn on the property, refusing charity. He was found sick with pneumonia and insane ten days ago.”

This obituary makes tantalizing reference to the mighty structure that has fascinated folks for years: “[Robert Johnston’s] body … will be immured in the magnificent family mausoleum built many years ago at a cost of $300,000 in Calvary Cemetery.”The dismal circumstances of Robert Johnston’s death did not cost him a space in the family mausoleum. The mausoleum’s presence today echoes the success and personal fortunes of the Johnston name while housing the man who wasted it.The story is indeed interesting, as the tomb is occupied by prince and pauper alike.

Spring fishing excursion

I thought I would share this image from the past, which is also included in my gallery section here, because now is the time of year when you see fisherman on the banks of the local streams around our area.These Amish boys heading to their favorite fishing hole is one of those images that I look back at and can recall the entire scene as if it were yesterday, even though it goes back to my black and white film days. I had been driving around looking for images when I passed this crew slowly walking down a back road, and I immediately knew it was something I wanted to record for posterity. I drove a ways up the road to a dirt lane, parked and probably said a small prayer as I waited, to let them come by me. One thing I will say about my experience with the Amish is they are keenly aware of their surroundings and these boys were no different.They were looking at my car the whole time they approached and when I finally brought the camera up for a shot, the oldest boy kicked it into second gear as he made things difficult for me to focus and frame the shot, but thankfully I got this image with him in mid stride as he pulled what I assume are his brothers and their gear. I think I was shooting with a Nikon f3 at the time and maybe got three shots off, and this was the winner. I am sure they forgot me as soon as they got up the road,but I remember them like it was yesterday. Back in those days, I would have to drive home, develop the film, hope I nailed the exposure, make contact prints and check for focus before being able to get excited about a shot. Oh the good old days of photography, which by the way I would never want to return to.

Mechanical marvel

Pardon my brevity with today’s post, but I was hammered with two migraines in one day today, which is very rare for me, so as I type this, I pretty much feel like this machine is sitting on my head. Sometimes when the weather changes, These things can hit me for whatever reason. So hopefully I did not post this shot before, and my apologies if I did.

The old homestead

This is another image from my early sunday photo adventure. Winds were a bit more than I was hoping for, so unfortunately I had to up my iso to 800, which I never like to do, but it got me in the thirtieth of a second shutter speed range, which obviously was better than using anything slower. I passed this location and turned around for a better look, and because it was around 7am, I figured it was too early to knock at the door, but luckily the owner came out at that moment as she was headed to a local antique center for the morning, so she kindly allowed me access.

Spring’s Glorious Entrance

Weatherman was calling for rain yesterday, but when I woke it was just overcast with a slight breeze, so I headed out to look for photo possibilities. After becoming frustrated with increasing breezes most of the morning, things finally calmed down a bit and just in time for another sighting of a beautiful magnolia at peak or just past peak  . The stone home with blue shutters was a perfect complement to the pink hues of the tree, and the carpet of freshly fallen petals made it a must shoot scene.

The Magnificent Magnolia

Today started out with dense fog enveloping the countryside, and unfortunately I did not get a lot of time to seek out foggy scenes in the early morning hours. I did come across this lovely magnolia tree in full bloom at the Hibshman farm in Lancaster county,Pa. The farm includes the original farmhouse,wash-house,stone barn, tobacco shed and barn, and a second farmhouse. The oldest section dates from 1750,and the second section was built around 1801. I knocked at the door to get permission to snap a few shots and a caregiver there was very accommodating. The sun burst out shortly after I arrived, so I was hoping for better light but it was somewhat soft light for these shots. This farm was preserved from development  and is listed on the national register of historic places. The magnolia blooms will soon be completely on the ground after blooming early this spring. For budding photographers following me, I want to mention to be critical when composing your shots,and if you take note here, I made sure the chimney on the house did not overlap the branch. little things like that can make or break a shot sometimes.

Amish Crescendo

A few days ago I mentioned wanting to share an image of some Amish girls that I photographed at the mud sale, and todays post includes three of several from a series including these young ladies. Let me start by explaining how these images came to be and why I chose the title. I had been wandering the auction grounds looking for possible photos when I noticed that there were some Amish teens starting to play volleyball in the field adjoining the auction, so I walked in the general direction to check it out. Upon getting closer, I noticed guys playing volleyball and girls in multi colored dresses nearby watching the boys. As I stood there taking in the culture, I noticed four old tractors at the end of the field that were going to be auctioned later in the day. I thought to myself, it would be so cool if one or two of these Amish teens would venture over to the tractors and check them out.

Well no sooner did I think that, when I notice a small group of Amish girls get up and head in that general direction. I immediately began moving behind a row of parked cars in the direction of the tractors in the hopes of getting one good shot before they noticed me. I stayed below the radar for a few minutes watching to see where they were going and to my delight,it was the tractors. As the group reached the tractors, two by two,they paired up on their own tractor and began goofing around, and having a good time with each other. They acted like they were plowing, driving, racing and even made putt putt sounds at one point. I quickly snapped a shot, and thought to myself, this is one of those moments that I cherish as a photographer and was so grateful to be there in that moment.

I figured I would snap a few shots and they would stop doing what they were doing after they saw me, but to my surprise they seemed to be totally unfazed by my snapping photos, and it almost seemed as if they were savoring the moment in front of the camera in a way, because as each moment ticked by, the image got better and better as they moved together onto one tractor to make small talk and have fun. Granted I was using a 400mm at a distance, but we made eye contact multiple times as we each laughed to ourselves in the moment. Experiences like this are forever etched in my mind, and provide me with memories of a culture and lifestyle that I find very special and worthy of respect. One thing I have seen countless times with the Amish,is the fact that they are more satisfied with simplicity than we are with every gimmicky gadget that occupies our time. After I left the spot, I kept thinking I would have loved to talk with them, listened to their perspective on things and even offer them prints, but I realize we come from two different worlds and even though they tolerated me, that was only because we were in a public venue that day.

The crescendo part of my title is because I literally felt like the time with these girls kept building to a visual peak as I snapped away. The multi colored dresses, the pleasant atmosphere, and a great group of Amish friends, all came together is this brief moment in time, which I was lucky enough to be witness too. It is definitely one moment on my photographic journey that I will not soon forget.These images are totally un-choreographed and ones I could not have planned out any better if I was given the chance.

The Wise Elder

I photographed this intimate scene during the mud sale this past weekend, and one can only imagine what the conversation included. It could have been about the warm weather arriving so early this spring, items up for sale at the auction, or possibly they were pondering the possibility of using the cane to beat some sense into the guy with the camera. I captured several images over a couple of hours at the sale that made me glad I went, and this was one of those images. I shot this using a longer lens approaching 400mm, so I was a decent distance from them. I rarely shoot on anything but manual, so typically I have the exposure pre-set, so when I raise the camera I only need to frame and focus in an instant, and need not be concerned with trying to tweak exposure. This can be helpful with subjects wearing black, which can throw meters off.

Foggy morning sunrise

This weekend included another mud sale in the region, and the day started with heavy fog, which quickly burned off to reveal beautiful sunny skies. I would rather have overcast to shoot people pics, but you take what you can get. I arrived at the sale location almost an hour and a half early so I could park reasonably close to the sale, mainly because I absolutely hate taking shuttle buses to and from an event. The image shown here was the first image of the day  and was taken as I walked the hundred yards or so from where I parked to the sale site. I liked the receding trees in the early fog and the sun making an appearance. I will share some Amish shots from the sale over the next few days, which includes a great image of some Amish girls I photographed,so stay tuned.

The Pied Piper lives

The barnyard debacle yesterday was shot at the same location that I shot this image. This lady came out from the nearby barn carrying this bucket, and the chickens quickly got to stepping as they anticipated an easy meal. I had said hi to this lady a few minutes before and made some small talk about the goats, so I was a little hesitant to shoot this image, but I could not resist the temptation when I saw the scene beginning to take shape.

You want a piece of me?

Sometimes You see things that you just wish you had on video, but unfortunately I can only share a few stills from some shooting today. The scene unfolds in the pasture with photo number one featuring the mature goat being confronted by the new kid on the block, and even though the youngster bobbed his head a few times to show how brave he was , the old-timer backed him up several times just using the evil eye, as if to say, do you feel lucky punk?. As this scenario unfolded, the chickens went running, as if to cackle, oh boy, there is gonna be a fight, we better get over there to watch the new kid get a good beat down, and then photo three has more spectators clamoring to get a good view of the showdown. The youngster finally thought things through, remembered he had no horns yet, and decided he did not need a good bump on his head from the old-timer, so he moved on to challenge more fitting opponents as shown in number four.

Come and sit a spell

This was a last-minute photo selection for today, as I was busy dividing iris clumps in our garden this evening. This recent shot featuring a rocking chair was calling my name to sit down after two hours of digging in the dirt. The darn warm temperatures have everything starting early, so I am trying to keep ahead of the garden chores, which seem to get harder every year.

Spring Frolic with the kids

Today I realized that even at my age I can actually still learn something new. I picked this image that I shot in the last couple days to post here, and I assumed that since the adult goat had horns, it must be the father. As I was getting ready to write my description for the photo, I thought maybe I will google the possibility of a female goat having horns. Low and behold, they actually can have horns, so this is momma goat leading her three adorable little offspring across the pasture. They had a little episode with the large Llama from yesterdays posting, and for whatever reason that barnyard bully kept antagonizing and chasing the mother goat, so she would give the all hands on deck call to the youngsters, who would follow mom to a spot of protection. It’s interesting how one is white,one black and one a combo.


With warm temperatures making an appearance more frequently, signs of spring are becoming a little more regular throughout the region.This recent shot features a baby goat and a Llama in a local barnyard and I just came up with the title after contemplating what is going through this tiny goats brain. These critters are absolutely hilarious as they get their feet under them and begin to explore their world.I have better shots from this shoot, but wanted to share this one today.

Auction Day

This past weekend, I did a short stint shooting at a local mud sale. Sunny skies proved to be a real challenge in this situation, because using fill flash is not something I feel comfortable using with such conservative subjects. I used longer lenses from 300mm-400mm range for most shots,so I need not be right in their face to get a few images of this culture. I must say I did see some rather unique haircuts throughout the day. It would take me twenty years to grow a beard this thick, and I commented to my buddy that I have never seen an Amish man or woman bundled up for really cold weather. Perhaps they use layers or are just tougher than the average joe. Looking at these shots,you can see they are not wearing heavy coats, while I was wearing 2 sweatshirts and a coat,long underwear,gloves with hand warmers and a wool hat. The man in the bottom photo was very serious most of the time, except this light-hearted moment, and something about his look reminded me of Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter.

The Makeover

This weekends mud sale was less than ideal due to bright sun, which is terrible when you consider that most subjects are dressed in black and are wearing hats casting hard shadows. Myself and a friend did shoot a few shots,but we are hoping for overcast at an upcoming mud sale. I took this grab shot of several plain girls who suddenly stopped to work on this one young ladies hair and scarf. The recipient of all the attention seemingly enjoyed the help, but I am not sure if they were sisters or friends.

Cape Porpoise Nightmare

My mother recently joked about an experience I had in maine a few years back, so I figured I would share the memory here. My wife and I were on a new england vacation, and had stopped in Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport Maine to look around at several shops and I also wanted to do some photography. While there my wife got the brilliant idea to do a whale watch, but the idea of going 25 miles out to sea in a small boat was not my idea of fun,but since it was clear blue skies and totally calm seas, I said sure. We headed out and kept going and going and going, and about halfway out it gets cloudy, and I thought no big deal. When we are nearing the whale area, the captain comes on the loud-speaker to say conditions look like they are going to deteriorate and we wont be staying long. Well things did deteriorate rapidly and just as my wife tries to shoot a whale coming out of the water, I grab her to tell her how horrible I am feeling,and she basically says go get sick somewhere else so I can enjoy the whales. Anyway, the waves were rolling now at 6-8ft and the whole way back in, the captain literally was riding the waves with his boat till we crashed into waves ahead of us. I was certain we were going to be lost in this storm, and because I was sick, we sat on the outside of the boat as everyone huddled inside with life preservers on. The two parts of this trip that are the most indelibly etched in my mind are when I went inside to use the bathroom, everyone was watching me head to the door, and as I open the door, this poor woman is standing there with her clothes around her ankles and the whole crowd looking at her. I thought who lets a door unlocked in that state?  The second memory is of these two teenage girls who stood on the very top of the boat in the front and screamed with utter joy as we crashed into each wave. I thought we were dead and they were having the time of their lives, so I guess it’s all in your perspective. Needless to say whale watches are no longer high on my to do list. I remember getting to shore and hearing a crew member say, the captain told them it was the worst conditions he had ever navigated, but I am not sure what that meant since he was only about 25 years old. This photo was taken that day, but its nothing earth shattering.

Gardens begin to wake

It seems a bit early yet, but the crocuses are already blooming in many gardens in my area. The snowdrops already made their appearance weeks ago, so I guess I am officially ready to jump into the spring season. I always enjoy tulip season,but the last couple years have brought bad weather at just the wrong time, so I am hoping for a good stretch of calm overcast days, with even a hint of mist or fog in the air when tulip time arrives in a few weeks.

Mud Sale Season

Spring is rapidly approaching, and in Amish country, that means it is mud sale season. For those who have never heard of the mud sale, it is basically an auction held by numerous fire companies in the spring, and is held in the farm fields, which are usually a sloppy mess from spring rains. This weekend I hope to attend one to shoot a few Amish images, as they attend in large numbers and come with the understanding that cameras will be around, and tend to not be particularly irritated by that. I still try to stay low-key, shooting with longer lenses , and tend to snap a shot and move on, as to not over stay my welcome, so to speak. Each weekend or so in the coming weeks, a different fire co holds their own sale across the region, and items range from buggies to bird houses to horses and everything in between.I have included 3 shots from last years mud sale season. The two boys shown were truly stuck in the mud and were giving it their all to get loose during an extremely muddy sale.

Lets get ready to rumble

Well this is the time of year when the newborn critters make their appearance, and usually warm weather brings out the playful side in them. These baby goats were full of energy from the warm sun, and a good round of head butting was just what they needed to do to burn off some extra energy. It’s always funny watching them size each other up, and then rise up to give a good smack to the nearest competitor. This was one of those rare times when the recipient was ready to fire back.

Take Flight

I decided to go see what the snow geese situation was this evening, and I was lucky enough to see them take to the air en-masse several times. Several people mentioned that overall numbers may be declining as several weather fronts have come through and many times the birds follow these currents northward. It’s hard to see any detail in this small a photo, but it was great to see hundreds of birds take to the air at once. I shot the image at f8 at a 2000th of a second, and this is only a tiny percentage of the group.

The Fairground Organ

This image hopefully showcases what I consider to be a very beautiful Bruder Fair Organ from the late 1800s. The owner was gracious enough to let me photograph the piece, which has the most lovely colors on its carved surfaces. The founder of the Waldkirch organ industry was Ignaz Bruder, 1780-1845, and he was the master teacher for several german organ builders, and four of his sons founded the business Gebruder Bruder. Two of those sons, Wilhelm and Arnold, founded their own organ factory under the name of Wilhelm Bruder Sohne. I assume this piece was done by them because that name is painted across the middle, above the figure. I did not hear the organ play,but I bet it really resonates for blocks when it does play. I am by no means an authority on these organs, but doing a little research on the net, it was hard to find two organs that looked the same, so quite possibly each piece was one of a kind. The craftsmanship is simply mind-boggling. I light painted the whole room to give it a dreamy look. Can you imagine anyone having the ability or desire to create such a masterpiece today? It not only is beautiful to look at, but the music it produces most certainly delighted countless crowds way back when as well.

Color vs Black & White

I usually go with one image a day, but I thought Since these two shots are of the same subject, yet look totally different, it might be interesting to see color vs black and white, First, let me say the color shot actually makes no sense to the trained eye of a machinist, but to a layman like myself, it looked perfect. The set of bits on the right were sitting a short distance from this machine, so I decided they must be used on that machine and I proceeded to place them there. I was pretty far into the shot when the owner walked by, and told me they have no relation to each other, but I was already committed at that point. The black and white was the first image I shot using old oil cans, but for some reason it did not work in color, so I abandoned the cans for the bits. Either way, I like both shots almost equally,but I really like the textures in the black and white.

Weighing the options

Today I visited a local florist that is planning to open an antique shop in the near future, and he graciously allowed me to look through his collection for possible photo subjects. I saw the old scale first and then selected several items to add some balance and color to the shot. I have no idea where some of my ideas come from, but I decided fruit would look neat on the scale, so I zipped over to a nearby produce stand and picked up a selection of limes,lemons and apples. For budding photographers taking notes, I light painted this shot using my small flashlight, and because the room had numerous windows, I used a 3 stop neutral density filter on the lens, which allowed me to shoot exposures around 8 seconds each. The window directly behind the shot was covered by black fabric till the very end, and then the exposure for the window portion was simply painted in on lighten mode in layers in Photoshop. Thanks to Kerry for giving me free reign in the shop.

Goat Island Rescue

We had a decent amount of rain over the last two days,so my mind started thinking about all the heavy storms we had in the last year, and this image came back to my memory. What appears to be a lake, is actually a field for this herd of goats, and over near the green grass there was a tiny stream that severely overflowed its banks. As the goats were down to their last few feet of pasture, the owners came out with the tractor and cart. They loaded the young ones in the wire cages, and persuaded the nervous parents to follow them to higher ground. It was comical to watch, but the waters were still rising,so they got out at just the right time.

The Guardian Angel

Sometimes I must just pause and contemplate things that may be coincidence or may be something more. Most of my posts are pretty light-hearted in nature, but today I was asked to photograph a guest speaker at a local school. That speaker was a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and the stories he relayed to the students were simply heart wrenching. He spoke more candidly to the adults afterward and the ordeal this man went through and survived is nothing short of miraculous. The coincidence part I mentioned is because I post a shot last night about a guardian angel, and today this man told numerous stories of his days at Auschwitz, and how he was saved many times by a guardian angel. It just struck me that I could have posted that image a month from now, but I chose last night.

I will share two stories he offered for anyone brave enough to read. The first Story involves him finding a tunnel that the German Shepherds had dug,which went right under the electrified fence. He had made up his mind that he was going to try to escape and either die trying or live upon his escape, and the day before he was planning his attempt, eleven men had done the same thing and were caught outside the perimeter. He said every man was made to parade with a sign saying they were glad to be back inside,and then they were lined up to be shot. Before they were shot, the commander asked for eleven volunteers to join them, and if no one volunteered, he would be selecting 50 men himself. He said in less than three minutes, eleven men had volunteered, and then all 22 men were shot in front of them. He still made his attempt the next day,and upon exiting found a boot on his neck, but after making some conversation in german with the man about his family and children, he was given the chance to get away by this man, and once again the guardian angel was there.

The last story I will share of his experiences is one where he was in italy after his escape, and one day he was stopped by german soldiers and questioned. He spoke perfect italian, but the men refused to believe he was a native of the town, and immediately took him to the wall for execution. He said the commander gave the order to prepare to shoot him, and out of nowhere comes a Priest yelling at him and giving the performance of a lifetime. He said this man was so dramatic,saying he had been looking for him and he was supposed to get to the church to do his work. He had no idea who this man was, and as the soldiers stood there in a puzzled way, the priest led him away by his ear no less, and at a safe distance told him to run for all he was worth. Again the guardian angel was there.

He sat 15 feet from Hitler at the 1936 olympics, and watched him turn his back on Jesse Owens, and he also watched Joseph Mengele decide who would live and die on numerous occasions. Hopefully I did not upset anyone with my post today,but to hear this man tell of his journey was something that just left me with a sense of utter sorrow for all those who suffered.